Mike Smith Sherman Fricks Of labor skates & skirmishes Dallas It seemed, at first glance, like a remarkably dull labor convention. The statewide officers were re-elected without opposition. There were no fistfights. There wasn’t even much yelling. “Harmony sucks,” observed Black Fred the newsman, as he and McNeely were sampling the soup o’ the day at the Heidelberger Restaurant. Reporters amused themselves by starting a contest to see who could write the best country song containing the words “labor skate.” \(A labor skate is a person whose The skates themselves were having trouble finding the nightly poker game. We heard the big winner was planning a vacation in Hawaii. Meanwhile, back at the scene of the action, there was a whole lot of early skirmishing going on concerning Democratic presidential politics. Conventional wisdom has it that the national AFL-CIO is already tied up for Scoop Jackson and the state leadership had planned on no endorsement at all. So the Steelworkers’ unanimous endorsement of Lloyd Bentsen hit the convention like a blue norther. The Steelworkers are among the more liberal Texas unions they supported Sissy Farenthold for governor in 6 The Texas Observer 1972 and initiated the school desegregation suit in Corpus and are also possessed of a very canny leadership. Maybe the Steelworkers saw the problem just the way Lloyd Bentsen presented it the weekend before the convention. Bentsen breezed into Dallas and had a series of folks in for audiences with him. He called some Dallas liberal leaders and some Dallas labor leaders in together. \(Some folks hold that this was a faux pas indicating he either doesn’t know or doesn’t care much about the splits and “He made the primary out like it was `High Noon,’ ” said Pat Pangburn, a liberal from the 8th Senatorial District and one of the invitees. “Like it’s gonna be the big shoot-out. Just him, alone in the street, facing down bad ol’ George Wallace.” The liberal/labor group was ushered into Bentsen’s suite after the group that was invited for breakfast and before the group that was invited for lunch. They claim they got stale rolls and cold coffee. Liberal Rep. Jim Mattox broke them up afterward by asking, “If they really love us, why don’t they ever feed us?” While the lib/labs were not entirely sold on the “High Noon” scenario, and certainly not on Bentsen himself, yet another factor reared its familiar head your basic self-interest. Some lib/labs are now convinced, or are in the process of convincing themselves, that Bentsen is their best ticket to the national convention. “Am I better off in New York [the assumed site of the ’76 convention] as a Bentsen delegate who’s just been released, or back in Irving watching it all on television?” inquired Pangburn. A Steelworker skate said, “Look, Bentsen’s not gonna make it. He’s not gonna be on the ticket in either spot. He’ll fade early. He may not fold until he actually gets to the convention, but he’ll fold. Meanwhile, he’s our best bet to stop this state from giving a large chunk of delegates to Wallace.” According to this skate, labor has got to get itself aboard Bentsen’s boat early enough to have some stroke on the committees of ten. Under the new each candidate will choose ten people in each senatorial district of the state. Those ten will in turn select the three or four names that will appear on the primary ballot as delegates for the Bentsen slate. Anne McAfee of Austin, who is strong for Fred Harris, said, “I just can’t believe that liberals could rationalize themselves into supporting Bentsen. Bentsen’s not going to let liberals go to the national convention. He’s not going to give labor or liberals anything. Those people are just dreaming. Bentsen’s going to put his own people on those slates and nobody else.” Harris, who made one of the best speeches at the convention \(very reminiscent of a young Ralph definitely come into the Texas primary. Be damned, he more or less said, to any liberal strategies about an uncommitted slate or trying to get to New York through Bentsen. However, Harris has apparently not yet made his final decision. Jimmy Carter of Georgia also spoke at the convention. Said much the same thing as Harris, though not as forcefully. Was more subdued and “presidential” in tone: has the kind of appearance and grin that caused several lady delegates to exclaim, “Oh, isn’t he cute!” Carter reportedly huddled privately with some of the labor folks and lambasted their Bentsen strategy. Carter’s own strategy is to prove that he can stop Wallace. By the time the Texas primary is held, Carter says he will have de-railed Wallace in the Florida and Georgia primaries and possibly other states. Word was that Governor Carter was just plain mad about the Texas unions lining up behind Bentsen. Meanwhile, a skate source from D.C. asserts that Meany, Barkan, and the rest of the AFL-CIO’s national leadership are absolutely not committed to Jackson. His word was that state AFL’s could go whichever way they pleased that would get them the most delegates at the national convention. He said labor is hot for representation at the next convention, no matter how split they wind up on candidates. Labor is still bitter, very bitter, about the treatment it got from the McGovern forces in 1972. We can’t even begin to tell you how bitter. They think they were more than ignored, they think they were double-crossed. That McGovern lied to them. That he spat on them, to put it politely. When the Vietnam War finally ended, there was some hope that the split between labor and liberals the hardhat v. longhair animosity exploited by folks of the ilk of Richard Nixon would die a natural death. But if the opinions expressed at the state labor convention in Dallas are any indication, the actions of George McGovern and his minions are good for another ten years of resentment by labor folk. As visiting proxies for Texas liberalism, Observer editors found themselves subjected to more than a few lectures on “what’s wrong with you liberals.” One canard that labor would particularly like to have put to rest is that it is racist. In point of fact, as the Observer has been at some pains to point out over the years, the Texas AFL-CIO has a rather stellar record in combatting racism. Even Paul Montemayor, now executive director of the Labor Council for Latin-American Advancement and for many years a much-loved skate working out of Corpus, gets teeed off by liberals who think labor is racist. Montemayor can remember back to the bad old days, in the early Fifties when he couldn’t even get a “Latin-American resolution” passed at state conventions. But he believed then as he believes now that organized labor would prove to be the ,,,,V4.q Tswookeismew Aapd.0.0 .1.0woor too. misttr. rAre
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